For anyone that hasn’t been paying attention, a digital revolution has been occurring since the 1980s. The software industry is growing exponentially. Disrupting and transforming almost every industry from healthcare to education, and blurring the lines between the physical and the digital along the way. As a developer or vendor of software, you want your business to be rewarded for the time and effort you have expended in your contribution to technology. But what are intellectual property rights? How do they relate to software? And how should they be protected?
Intellectual property refers to any ‘creation of the mind’, and in general we tend to think of this as being literary or artistic works. However, since the 1970s, intellectual property has also included the legal protection of computer programmes - so that developers can earn recognition and gain financial benefit from the software applications that they create.
To further the protection of the intellectual property rights of artists, writers and designers, the Berne Convention was held in 1886. The Berne Convention states that rather than requiring any kind of formal application or registration, copyright exists on all works, from the moment they are ‘fixed’. The Berne Convention also states that except for photographic and cinematographic work, copyright protection automatically lasts for the life of the author, plus 50 years.
Iteration after iteration, vigorous testing and development and ‘ta-dah’ - a software creation is finished. And now, thanks to the Berne Convention, regardless of whether software was developed from scratch or built upon the source code of another application, the intellectual property in the finished work is automatically protected by copyright law. However, beware; the legalese of IP Protection is not a Software IP protection strategy.
Copyright infringement includes direct and indirect copying, as well as unauthorised translation of software code into different programming languages. The law exists to protect software applications from intellectual property theft. Anyone that downloads or runs a software without permission is infringing on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner and could be liable for any damages or subject to a statutory fine. However the legislation itself can only be used to enforce intellectual property rights - it doesn’t track software usage and can’t alert the copyright owner to an infringement of their work.
There are several ways to protect software IP, each affording different levels of protection. The worst IP protection strategies for computer software involve keeping a record of software sales and manually deploying software keys. Usually born out of necessity and / or not having the resources to build an automated solution in-house, this method relies on tracking software sales and deploying some sort of ‘key’ in order for software to run.
Reconciling license keys against a database of authorised users and shipping physical hardware, such as license dongles, is a time-consuming and expensive process. And the pay-off isn’t that great. Aside from the additional admin costs, even with perpetual licensing or hardware-based IDs, there's no way of reliably knowing where and how software is being used. Hardware can be cloned and license dongles can easily be passed from one user to another - and what about customers that want consumption-based, subscription or other usage models?
The first step to creating a robust IP protection strategy is to let go of outdated systems. For software providers, the best IP protection solutions not only create a great customer experience when onboarding new customers, the inherent operational efficiency aligns with the objectives of every successful software company.
In a highly competitive, global digital market, it is no longer financially viable to expect customers to endure cumbersome processes to gain access to a software programme. In today's modern digital world, end-consumers are also not just aware of metered usage, free trials and ‘pay as you go’ pricing, they have come to expect these options. Software vendors need to offer several different software usage models - maybe even to the same customer - and they also need to be able to reliably revoke access rights as the entitlements of their customer-base evolves.
Unlike other assets in the public domain, software applications are not sold. Instead they are operated under a license provided by the copyright owner - also known as ‘software licensing’. In other words, software licensing is the vehicle that protects the intellectual property rights of software vendors and therefore every software application has a software licensing process.
10Duke provides robust IP Protection for software applications with solutions that enable our clients to easily manage software deployment, with usage data available in real-time. With full-scale customer ID management and Identity-based Licensing, we enable our clients to consolidate their existing software business into a cloud-based software management solution.
Compared with more traditional device-based licensing models, identity-based licensing can offer you significant competitive advantages In a multi-app, multi-device world. Identity-based licensing offers more flexibility both in terms of the licensing terms under which you can make your products available and in terms of improving the ease with which your customer can access and interact with your products.
For many software businesses the Intellectual Property rights contained in their finished works are the fundamental building blocks for their business. How unlikely it would be for the same thousands of lines of code in your application to have been created independently by someone not engaged in unauthorised copying?
With the right licensing engine you can obtain granular control over software usage while at the same time offering the licensing models most suited to maximising revenue, rather than forcing you to adapt to an inflexible model, ill-suited to your business.
Accelerated by the events of the last 11 months, the world is now more digitally focussed than ever. End-users that, for one reason or another, may have resisted online solutions in the past, are embracing them with ever-widening arms. For software vendors, this either represents a huge challenge, or offers an incredible opportunity.
Identity and access management from 10Duke protects your software related innovations by letting you know exactly who is using your software and when, across a mix of desktop, mobile, mobile web and browser-based applications. Learn more.
Software IP protection strategy is not just about limiting access. Best IP protection also aims to enhance customer experience.
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